Since I often share satirical articles from McSweeney’s and The Onion, and some regularly respond oblivious to the satire, I try to buffer my own knee-jerk reaction to headlines; and thus, at first, I suspected this to be yet another scathing parody: Majority Of White Americans Say They Believe Whites Face Discrimination.
Alas, however, this is serious journalism from NPR about an apparently credible poll— leaving me to consider how delusional white people truly are in the U.S.
White people’s beliefs about whites being discriminated against disappear like tears in the rain when placed against the enormous evidence that whites, in fact, benefit from tremendous benefits for that whiteness in the U.S.
Let’s just catalogue a few significant contradictions in these white beliefs.
First, whites are likely strongly swayed by the mainstream media’s obsession with black-on-black crime, which sits beside the failure of mainstream media to cover with the same intensity white-on-white crime and this one basic fact: Crime in the U.S. is mostly within race and black-on-black crime rates (94 percent) are nearly statistically equal to white-on-white crime rates (86 percent):
Next, whites reap huge economic benefits compared to black and brown people, even when including race and level of education:
Additionally, whites fair much better than blacks in the judicial system, even when comparing among the same behaviors and despite the claimed advantages of more education:
And possibly most damning of all, the positive impact of affirmative action—the bane of whites—has mostly fallen to white women:
While people of color, individually and as groups, have been helped by affirmative action in the subsequent years, data and studies suggest women — white women in particular — have benefited disproportionately. According to one study, in 1995, 6 million women, the majority of whom were white, had jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise held but for affirmative action. Another study shows that women made greater gains in employment at companies that do business with the federal government, which are therefore subject to federal affirmative-action requirements, than in other companies — with female employment rising 15.2% at federal contractors but only 2.2% elsewhere. And the women working for federal-contractor companies also held higher positions and were paid better. Even in the private sector, the advancements of white women eclipse those of people of color. After IBM established its own affirmative-action program, the numbers of women in management positions more than tripled in less than 10 years. Data from subsequent years show that the number of executives of color at IBM also grew, but not nearly at the same rate.
Racism, willful ignorance, delusion — these are our only explanations for whites holding beliefs dramatically contradicted by an abundance of evidence that in the U.S. white privilege is powerful and the oppression of blacks is pervasive even when blacks attain more education.
One case that rivals white delusion is charter school delusion.
When I published an op-ed countering two local news stories on SAT scores — both of which misled readers by ranking schools and suggesting charter schools are somehow superior to traditional public schools — the predictable response appeared, from the state’s superintendent of charter schools no less:
Three levels of delusion in one tweet.
First, my university is test-optional—
We believe that your potential for success cannot be determined solely by standardized test scores. As a result, our admission process is test optional, meaning you are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores.
—as are a growing number of colleges and universities. And thus, the “gotcha” aspect of this tweet falls flat due to a complete failure to look for the evidence.
And finally, the greatest delusion of all among charter advocates is pure ideology: “Our expectations of kids cause inequity.”
Simply examine the SAT scores along with the Poverty Index (PI) in the chart below (traditional schools, no highlight, and charter schools, highlighted):
Both traditional and charter schools fall along a predictable pattern of SAT scores correlating strongly to PI, and thus, charter advocates have a real evidence problem with claims that SAT scores are the result, mostly or only, of expectations.
If there is an expectations problem in the charter school movement, it is that we must have higher expectations for honesty and awareness of evidence among charter school advocates, administrators, and teachers.
Delusion that denies white privilege or misrepresents educational policy is harmful on many levels since it detracts from real problems—such as the cancers that are racism and inequity as well as the tremendous failures of universal public education in the U.S.
In my first-year writing seminar, my constant refrain is urging young people to step back from what they believe is true, to be skeptical of those quick and easy beliefs, and to seek credible and compelling evidence that either confirms or corrects those beliefs.
Just saying something, I warn, doesn’t make it true.
White people and charter advocates, it seems, could use a refresher course in the foundations of composition.